Joel Plaskett’s fourth solo album The Park Avenue Sobriety Test is set to release March 17th via Pheromone Recordings. The album is a diverse and especially nostalgic addition to Plaskett’s vast catalogue. It’s been three years since his last release and five since a solo record. But between his solo stuff, The Joel Plaskett Emergency, and let us not forget that little ‘90s thing Thrush Hermit, Joel hasn’t kept us waiting in twenty years. This record proves to be some kind of checkpoint for Plaskett as the title’s acronym, PAST, simply puts the subject matter into focus. Through that lens we look back on Joel’s last forty years.
The album opens with a sixty-second lazy finger-picked tune on which Joel sings, “Pressure’s on, it’s time to make up my mind/I’ve got some kind of f—ked up illegitimate blues.” It’s a concise moment where we’re set up to find the deeper stories here. It’s comfortably answered by On a Dime, a totally nostalgic folk anthem reminiscing, “The good times we’ve had/I remember the laughs/We could take any turn on a dime.” I feel I’ve heard songs like this a few times over from Plaskett but in any case it’s a solid, classic Joel tune.
Through the album narrative we hear When I Close My Eyes, a heartfelt track lamenting love lost contrasted by Credits Roll, a darker and bluesier tune. Captains of Industry is lyrically a different statement from other songs on the album dealing with transparency and fighting for humanity with the chorus pleading, “If you want real love, show it.” A winding, reverberating guitar solo cuts through the soft rhythm section and makes a biting statement all its own. For Your Consideration almost reminded me of a Gordon Lightfoot tune the way the melody resolved so sweetly. It’s followed by Hard Times, another soft rolling maritime melody. Song for Jersey was refreshing for me, short, funky, and lyrically witty and fun.
All in all the Park Avenue Sobriety Test is something I would expect but the songs are great as usual. The album does seem to have a “winding down” quality about it but I think it holds its own within that theme. Maybe it’s just a passing moment for Joel, but what better than to capture it through his trademark maritime folk style and sound.
Joel Plaskett plays at The Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre (2490 Rue Notre-Dame O) on May 28. 8 p.m. $24.50 Advance, $27 Day of